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The yellow letters.

July 13, 2016
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Carol

My high school age sister occasionally brought boyfriends over to the house:  Loren Durand, Harry Fritz; all of them good guys, fun for a pre-adolescent like me to hang around.  I must have been quite young because I remember teasing Loren about his hair.  He didn’t like my teasing.  And climbing up Harry Fritz like he was a tree.  He wasn’t a tree, and, but I think he was only mildly irritated by my physically hanging off him.

Then, some time or other, she brought over an older guy named Chuck.  Chuck Angel.  My earliest memory is that Carol and Chuck took me and Eric Fiedler along when they went up to Blue Mountain to a shooting range to shoot Chuck’s .270 rifle at targets.  I must have been in the fifth or sixth grade because I was old enough to hold the rifle and fire it.  Recoil hurt.  Chuck let me look through the scope at a soldier, probably in the National Guard, who you could see hundreds of yards away in the hot summer sun. I could only see his helmet.  Bothers me when I think I was pointing a rifle at a person.

Chuck was fun for me.  Once on the way out to somewhere in the country near Missoula we stopped at Jumbo Hall, a prefabricated post WWII dormitory at the University of Montana.  I think the place was still called Montana State University in Missoula.  At that time Bozeman had the Montana State College of Agriculture.

Anyway at Jumbo Hall I was amazed to see Chuck climb through a window and return to the car with a brown bag that looked like a purse.  Turns out it was a camera bag that he had bought in Germany when he was overseas in the U.S. Army.  ‘Wow!  A real army man,’ I thought.  Chuck answered my questions about the army honestly and respectfully, so I loved Chuck.  He and Carol took me swimming at Lolo Hot Springs, at Nimrod Hot Springs.  Nimrod was on the old highway between Missoula and Drummond.  Chuck was a genuine man.  My own father died when I was about four years old.

Chuck was handsome, smart, kind and, best of all, he and Carol liked each other.  And both of them liked me a great deal.  They played games with me.  Games like throwing golf balls into a diaper pail filled with water.  Juggling.  Card games.  Board games.

Carol and Chuck let me babysit their first child, Chuckie, for a generous 25 cents/hour, while they went out on dates that didn’t cost them any more money than to pay me.  They were dirt poor because Chuck was in law school and they lived on the G.I. Bill and whatever money Chuck could earn teaching accounting as an adjunct at the university.  They lived in the old strip houses near the university golf course.  Of course they had no television and perhaps they had a radio, but they certainly didn’t get the newspaper because they couldn’t afford it.  What they had was classical white privilege.  They knew things would eventually get rosy.  They spent their spare time playing with the baby.  I played with Chuckie for hours also.

After law school, they moved to Helena where Chuck was a clerk for one of the Supreme Court justices; then Chuck got a job in Bozeman with a law firm.

One day, while I watched the kids for Carol when she was out shopping, I got to looking through Carol’s photo albums and I found a couple of letters, written on yellow legal paper, Chuck had written to Carol before they got married.  Of course, I was in high school by then and I had a prurient interest in a juicy love letter to my sister.  I had just opened the letter and read the salutation, “Dearest Carol. . . .” when I heard the front door opening.  I tried to hide the letters under the couch where I was sitting on the floor, but Carol saw me and she snatched up the letters, telling me they were private and I wasn’t to read her private letters.

Fast forward to about ten years ago when my sister was recovering from a horrendous car wreck.  Well, she ran into a moving train with her car.  I’ve written about that before.  Everyone thought she had tried to commit suicide by crashing at high speed into the train.  The coal car she crashed into was damaged enough that the railroad sent my sister a bill for damages.  My sister was damaged enough to spend some time in intensive care.  Oh, and they had to extract her from the wreck with jaws of life.  Carol had been speeding faster than 60 miles/hr when she hit the train.  The speedometers stick to the speed the car is going.  They make them that way, my niece told me.

The short of it was my sister was forbidden to return to her big victorian style house in Mitchell, Nebraska, when she was discharged from the hospital.  From the psychiatric ward.

I had the pleasure of signing my sister out of the ward.  Payback for her springing me from a military jail in 1970.  But anyway, I helped move my sister to our house in Billings so she could recuperate.  I think I’ve written about that before too.

What I didn’t tell about was Carol’s son Jon and I packed up and moved Carol’s stuff into storage.  At the last, I moved a bread box of her valuables and I found the yellow letters that started “Dearest Carol. . . .”  At last.  I scanned the first page.  Chuck talked about his wishes for marriage and family.  I folded the letter back up and replaced it in the box.

 

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